Mark Lawrence re-elected to be bishop of South Carolina

Episcopal News Service has the story today:

“The Very Rev. Mark Lawrence was re-elected as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina August 4 at a special electing convention held at St. James Church on St. James Island, South Carolina. Lawrence was the only candidate in the election since no petitions to add other names to the slate were received by the July 11 deadline.
A majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must now consent to Lawrence’s ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.”

I hope that Mark gets the needed consents this time and in a way that won’t be challenged. I say this as a person who knew Mark and saw his ministry in McKeesport back in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

But I also say this as someone who voted for in favor of General Convention consenting to the election of Gene Robinson in New Hampshire back in 2003 and someone who voted for the election of Bob Duncan when he was elected in Pittsburgh.

In 2003, at the time of General Convention, I found that the strongest argument in favor of +Gene’s election was that the people of New Hampshire had knowingly and canonically chosen him to be their next bishop. I wasn’t sure that I would have made the same choice, but I was willing to recognize that they knew him best and knew the something of the trials they were going to face when they made this choice.

I think you can say exactly the same thing in the case of Mark’s re-election today. Clearly the people the South Carolina have made their choice. Mark would probably not be an acceptable choice in many dioceses around the Episcopal Church, but he is to the people of South Carolina. Barbara Harris back in the day wouldn’t have been acceptable as a woman to many diocese in the country back then either, but she clearly was to the people of Massachusetts and the consents that came in seemed to be a recognition that she was the legitimate choice of the people who elected her.

The most common reason that I’ve heard for people to object to Mark’s election is that they fear that he is not going to work to keep the Diocese of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church. I have no window into his heart, but he has written that he will speak the words of the ordination vows in the Prayer Book for a bishop. In those vows he promises to follow the canons and discipline of the Episcopal Church. I believe that all we can ultimately do in the church is to take people at their word.

We don’t know what the future will bring. Mark may in fact be crossing his fingers (though I honestly don’t believe that he is) or may be parsing the words of the vows differently than someone like myself might do. In response to the first concern: we can only know of someone what they tell us. If they lie when they make a holy vow then God will be their judge and He will know better than we what the real motivations are so as to judge justly. In response to the second: If people start to insist that others have to understand the words in exactly a certain way, then all the Episcopal Church’s claims to be following in the tradition of the Elizabethan settlement are just so much hot air.

Ultimately I think the best we can do is to observe the Golden Rule – treat others as we want to be treated. If we do that and act faithfully before God, I have found again and again that, in the end, it all will work out.

Read the rest here: Episcopal Life Online – NEWS

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...